US President Barack Obama dramatically changed US foreign policy - sandbagging Israel and aligning himself with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas' preconditions for talks - when he called Thursday for a "full and phased withdraw of Israeli forces" from "occupied Palestinian lands" to what he termed " borders based on 1967 lines" - the 1949 armistice lines Israel's former Foreign Minister and UN ambassador Abba Eban, in 1967, referred to as the "Auschwitz borders." Obama left room for some "land swaps" at those borders.
Obama's comments came during his much anticipated policy address at the State Department in which he outlined the United State's new foreign policy for the Middle East and North Africa in light of the "spring revolutions" that have rocked the region.
Saying the world was tired of "nothing but stalemate" in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and complaining that "settlement activity continues" while the "Palestinians have walked away from talks," Obama said Israelis cannot obtain the dream of a democratic and Jewish state through "occupation."
The full text and video of Obama's comments on Israel can be viewed and read here.
Obama called for "two states for two peoples" with permanent borders based on the "1967 lines with agreed upon swaps." The "1967 lines" are in fact the lines agreed upon in the 1949 armistice, following which Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria for 19 years. The armistice lines, considered indefensible by defense experts, are often called "Auschwitz borders" in Israel.
He also mentioned that the PA state should be contiguous. This word may refer to Judea and Samaria's Jewish communities that separate Palestinian areas from one another, or even more dangerously, refer to a connecting road between Gaza and Judea and Samaria, which would make Israel non-contiguous.
"Our policy is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state for the Jewish people. Palestine as a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people. A viable Palestine; a secure Israel."
Calling for final negotiations on permanent borders - although he left only land swaps to negotiate - and security before deciding the “future of Jerusalem” and "Palestinian refugees," Obama said he believed these "wrenching issues" would eventually be solved because, in his words, "I am convinced majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past."
Abbas has stated almost the same thing: that returning to the 1949 Armistice lines is non-negotiable, but included Jerusalem in those borders, and said that only the refugees are a negotiable issue.
Obama, who tried to justify remarks endorsing PA territorial demands by invoking the long-standing friendship between Israel and the United States, said that "because of that friendship we must speak the truth," but at the same time endorsed PA leaders maximalist demands - ignoring most of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's conditions for a peace accord.
He did call on Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and maintained that the PA state be demilitarized.
Saying Israel must "act boldly to advance a lasting peace" and claiming a "growing number of Palestinians" live west of the Jordan river, Obama put the onus on Israel to make "millions believe peace is possible" and - using language traditionally associated with one-sided Israeli concessions - said Israel must "act boldly to achieve a lasting peace."
At the same time Obama rejected unilateral moves by Palestinian Authority leaders to achieve a declaration of statehood outside of negotiations in the United Nations in September saying efforts to to isolate Israel in the UN, and delegitimize Israel, won't achieve statehood.
"No peace can be imposed, not by US, not by anyone else," Obama said.
While saying the US would "make every effort" to advance the "cause of peace" Obama outlined no plan - other than Israeli concessions - for achieving an agreement between Israel and the PA.